For a writer looking to sell his book, the activity of seeking an agent's representation is called querying. It's an interesting process, overall, but more on that in a minute.
Meanwhile, I know this should be terrifying. I said as much in last night's blog post. I should have been more specific, though. The idea of querying is terrifying. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of agents out there. Many of them are so wonderfully well-fed that they're not accepting queries from newbies like me currently. Many, if not most (and no, I'm not taking the time to count them--I'm not that anal retentive!) of the remainder don't represent authors in my genre. That narrows the huge list I can compile from the Internet as well as my own personal copy of the Novel & Short Story Writer's Market down to--well, a less huge list.
All are different, too. That's what I meant by "interesting process." Some agents have been around a long, long time, and some represent authors whom I very much wish to be like in terms of commercial success. Others are new, hungry, and though their success list may be short at this point, there's no telling which of them might in the near future score huge successes for their authors.
On top of that, nearly every one of them has a different process in place to accept queries. Some of the rules appear to be made to comply with the agent's personal habits and work flow preference. Others just seem to be there as a gatekeeper, keeping the lazy or stupid out of their inbox. One agent, for example, requires query letters to state a publisher and that publisher's minimum word count to consider a fantasy submission, and the publisher has to be taken from a certain list. In this case, I'm sure the agent already knows this information, and the data doesn't make a damn bit of difference as to the nature of the query. It's a brown M&M test, is all.
Remember the brown M&M test? Megaband Van Halen requires in its contracts that a bowl of M&Ms, sans brown ones, be provided to them pre-concert. It's not because they don't like brown, and it has nothing to do with the quality of their--um, do I call it singing?--or of the facility. It's a test to see if people are paying attention to the items in the contract. Brilliant, really.
Took me a while to find a publishing company that lists on its site the minimum submission word count, but I did.
Anyway, as I said before, the idea of querying is what's terrifyingly daunting. There's a huge quagmire, and I know that it's going to be difficult to keep track of, and I know that somebody's going to reject me like a one-armed GI Joe doll. It should be terrifying.
It's not, though. It's actually exciting as all hell. After months of creative writing and creative revising and not-so-creative editing, I'm really just ready to get'r'done. I'm confident that the book is good. Heide is confident that the book is good. The editor is confident that the book is good. That's three for three. My query letter boilerplate stuff is also good, and also approved by three of the three. My spreadsheet--yes, I'm going anal-retentive on this one--is fired up, and I'm listing agents and reasons and sources and brown M&M tests. Once I'm done I can sort and prioritize, and then bam!